Thursday, 28 February 2008


The Pitch – “Down South, a black man finds an abused and discarded petite, young white girl suffering under some type of perpetual sexual conniption fit. To save her from a life of hellfire and purgatory, he chains the girl (clad only in her underwear) to a radiator and proceeds to play the blues.”

The Response to The Pitch – “Are you fucking insane? You want me to be picketed and protested against by every goddamn interest group in the fucking country? From the NAACP to ... to ... to women’s groups and ... and ... A black guy chains a ... a ... a white girl ... ? ... The fuck outta here!”

Craig Brewer made his film, calling it “Black Snake Moan”. And, predictably, ...

“I'm sorry, but in the age of Abu Ghraib and Alberto Gonzales torture memos, it seems important to say it again: Chaining people and holding them against their will is not the right thing to do.”
Dana Stevens at Slate

“His inversion of long-discredited stereotypes smacks unintentionally of nostalgia for faithful servants.”
Richard Brody at The New Yorker

“A lurid exploitation flick that features long, loving sequences of Christina Ricci writhing around in her knickers, Black Snake Moan is Southern Gothic at its trailer-dwelling trashiest ... It’s so profoundly, mind-blowingly offensive that you almost have to admire the writer/director Craig Brewer’s nerve.”
Wendy Ide at Times Online

“Maybe it's all meant to be funny, but the sight of Ricci's bruised and near-naked body (she's barely clothed for much of the film) didn't make me want to laugh. She howls like a banshee and writhes like the Devil himself is within her; what she never does is create a character, because there isn't one there.”
Moira MacDonald at Seattle Times

“A feverish Christina Ricci in full B-movie mode, as itchy Tennessee nymphomaniac Rae. While it's impossible to know what drew her to such a demeaning role, it may have a little something to do with the attention any actress would get from writhing through a movie half-naked and chained at the waist, begging for a man's - but I digress.”
Elizabeth Weitzman at New York Daily News

One of the problems I have with a vast number of film critics these days is that, inevitably, they will attempt to place the “entertainment” they have viewed into an ideological context, whether it be political or social in nature.

Drawing a link (so to speak) between this film and events in Iraq as Dana Stevens from Slate attempts to do is simply stupid. One is a war in which people devote their time to punching bullets into the heads of other people for reasons almost impossible to fathom (religion has something to do with it, apparently). The other is indeed a “lurid exploitation flick” for which we pay a number of dollars to sit in the dark and eat popcorn as we watch, after which we are free to leave (or indeed leave at any time during it’s duration if we so choose) and go home. “Black Snake Moan” is a fantasy, a fairy tale, a fable of sorts featuring characters who are no more “real” than Bugs Bunny “is” a rabbit.

As for stereotypes, Tennessee Williams had
them in spades. And it never did him no harm, no ma’am.

Christina Ricci, a fine and excellent actor, would have been very well aware after an initial reading of the script and subsequent meetings with the director that she would be required, for much of the movie’s length, to “writhe around in her knickers ... half naked and chained at the waist”, which seems to be a prominent point of complaint from many of the aforementioned reviewers. Yet that is precisely what she chose to agree to by taking on the role. Should she have waited for one of those other typically juicy and demanding parts that Tinseltown so often provides its female stars ... another wife maybe, another girlfriend, perhaps somebody’s mother ... all of them no doubt suppliant to favors from heroic men folk who, as per usual, will save the maiden from whatever evils threaten to engulf her so that she may live to cook another day?

Ricci tends not to play it safe in her choices ... witness her turn in
“Monster” or her upcoming role in “Penelope” where she plays a woman born with the nose of a pig, so it should really come as no great surprise to anyone that she would challenge herself, and ourselves, by taking on a part such as that of Rae in this film. Additionally, many critics took time to register their shock and alarm at Ricci’s slight and undernourished appearance as Rae, yet, as she has pointed out, this was deliberate in order to make the character look unhealthy. Of course, such devotion is perfectly fine and admirable when Christian Bale or Robert de Niro do it, but heavens to betsy’s murgatroids that a woman undertake the same process sans prostheses or CGI ...

“Black Snake Moan” is indeed a “B” picture; and most definitely is it a lurid melodrama of sin, sex, sweat and southern Gothic exaggerations underscored by a, no doubt “stereotypical” blues soundtrack.

It’s also very finely made, acted and filmed and perfectly suited to an afternoon’s viewing curled up on the couch with a six-pack and a pizza. Or a pigfoot.

From 2007, “Black Snake Moan” (Trailer).

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